2021 turned out to be another busy and fun year for Bowen despite lockdowns, silly Covid rules and no holidays abroad or family visiting us.
However, the year certainly started off like no other year before it. We were back in lockdown, the third since March 2020, but luckily for both of us, we were still working from home. Jo was the big winner early in the year as she got a brand new office space in the lounge under the staircase and a lovely hand-made oak desk & bookshelf, which we had commissioned a local carpenter to build for us.
- Home improvements namely;
- replaced our fascias, gutters and soffits,
- renovated the en-suite,
- replaced our old leather couch,
- Did some lovely walks.
- Had two wonderful holidays in Devon and Pembrokeshire, Wales and got to explore, visit and walk around some great national treasures.
- Knocked down the old shed, laid new foundations, built a new shed, installed the roof, gutters, insulated the entire inside, installed lights, built a tool rack and shelves.
- Celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.
- Sold our first house in Greenhithe, Kent.
- Hired a Caterham.
- Got a new cat.
- Joined Parkrun at Reigate Priory, I completed 5 & Jo completed 11 parkruns.
- Electrified our Brompton bikes.
- Joined two bowling clubs, one outdoor and one indoor and met lots of new people.
- Made Biltong for the first time in my life and it turned out to be a really good hobby with delicious consequences.
- Bought our first electric fat tyre mountain bikes.
- Watched every single Formula 1 race this year supporting Max Verstappen and for the first time in seven years we have a new world champion to follow.
- Loved driving our Tesla Model 3 everywhere.
First snowfall of 2021
We had our first decent snowfall of the year in late January, enough to settle and get fairly deep on the ground. It was great fun walking in the countryside listening to the snow crunch under our boots. See our post ‘A lovely 10-mile walk in the snow.‘ for photos of the first snowfall.
First home improvement of 2021
Going Electric in 2021
2021 was the first year we’ve owned an electric vehicle and it offered up some positive challenges, which you can read about in our post titled ‘Going Electric in 2021‘.
Cleaning the patio tiles outside goes down as my least favourite chore of the year. It is such a messy, dirty job, but the tiles look great once they’ve been cleaned. Next year we plan to fill the tiles with sand.
Crazy monitor setups
Jo upgraded her small LCD monitor for a lovely large, curved widescreen LCD with a built-in Microsoft Teams button and HD camera.
I took Jo’s old 24″ monitor and turned it into a vertical monitor and made a crazy screen set up, which worked out surprisingly well for a while. From left to right the screen size was 49″ wide (2 x 27″ + 1 x 24″). That is a lot of screen real estate. Having the curve was fantastic.
I stuck with this set-up for a few months, but it was problematic because each screen had a different resolution and it really messed with my eyes and glasses when looking at the left or right screen. There was also a lot of mouse travel from one screen to another. I did a post titled, ‘Three LCD monitors plus DisplayFusion equals efficiency‘, where I discussed the monitors and how to get around this problem.
Another problem was those black edges between the screens. As much as one tried to pretend the screens were one, they weren’t. Not that I am a big games player or anything, but it was awkward playing Flight Simulator & Project Cars. In the end, I sold all three monitors on the Facebook Marketplace and bought myself a 38″ ultra-wide, curved LCD from LG, which is a lot smaller, but awesome nonetheless!
Goodbye corner couch
Our leather corner couch lasted surprisingly well for many years despite having three cats with claws, not that they ever clawed the couch. The two motorised chairs on the ends were a bit kaput as the springs had gone in the seats. The couch worked okay in our old house as there wasn’t much space, but in our current home it looked out of place and it was not practical having a corner couch sitting in the middle of the room.
Jo found a shop in Dorking called Harmans Home Interior, that sold these lovely Italian leather lounge suites.
We got rid of the white carpet as it didn’t work. It was dirty, old and covered a lovely wooden floor, which really brought out the colours as one can see in the photograph below.
Jo picked up a nice carpet from Wayfair, and once it was down, the lounge looked and felt a lot cosier.
We sold our first house in Knockhall Road, Greenhithe
In April 2021 we sold our first house in Knockhall Road, Greenhithe. Purple Bricks did a great job getting the house sold. At least we can say we’ve been landlords and it is definitely not something we want to do again.
20th Wedding Anniversary in 2021
Unfortunately due to Covid, lockdowns and various travel bans, there was no travel to faraway exotic places to celebrate reaching our twenty-year wedding anniversary. Instead, we hired a Caterham for a couple of days and drove around Kent, Sussex and Surrey (also around the Bradshatch race circuit).
In May, we had some weird weather. A couple of hot days followed by a day of hail.
Renovated the en-suite bathroom
Our en-suite bathroom was old, the shower stopped working, the radiator was in the wrong place and blocked the door. It was time for a change. We found a local bathroom design and installer called Elegantile who gave us a great quote and a favourable timeline and the transformation was incredible.
I took loads of bird photographs this year, but there were a few gems that stood out. This Robin sat down on the fence next to me while I was building the shed. Fortunately, I had my camera with me, but it had a 100-400mm lens on it and I couldn’t zoom out to fit the Robin into the frame, so I just focused on its eye and took the shot. He was such a tame little chap.
Holiday to Devon
Our first road trip in our Tesla Model 3 was down to Devon. Oddly enough we had not visited this part of the country before. We checked how many Tesla superchargers were in the area and there were at least two within the county. There are actually a lot more EV chargers around, not necessarily Tesla superchargers, but ones we could use if we found ourselves in a pickle.
The Tesla Model 3 has a range of 335 miles, less if one takes into account the other things that use up the battery while driving (mobiles, lights, heated seats, radio & air-con). The night before we left Bletchingley, we charged the car to 100% and the following morning drove all the way to the Estuary Centre outside Exeter, where we used the superchargers to top up the battery to full again. The supercharger stations are quite special and Tesla has made a great effort to make the Tesla drivers welcome.
The superchargers were also free all year for us, which was great.
We stayed at Bickley Mill Inn, located in an idyllic Devon valley, a short hop from Newton Abbot. The area was a beautiful farming community with lots of green rolling hills and streams everywhere.
We took our Brompton bikes and there were some stunning country lanes to cycle along.
Walk – Berry Head National Nature Reserve
You can read about our ramble through the Berry Head National Nature Reserve, which is a spectacular walk on the edge of some steep cliffs. We walked in the pouring rain. Having travelled all that way, nothing was going to stop us from seeing the dramatic coastline.
Walk – Haytor Tor in Dartmoor National Park
We took a drive to Dartmoor National Park where we did a circular walk around Haytor Tor and the vast moorland. It was quite steep in places, muddy, but very interesting to see the history of Haytor Tor. Trails wind through valleys with Neolithic tombs, bronze age stone circles and abandoned medieval farmhouses. Dartmoor ponies roam its craggy landscape, defined by forests, rivers, wetlands and tors. It was very impressive. The views from the various viewpoints were stunning.
Finnegan joined the house
In July we got a new cat, a Siamese kitten called Finnegan. You can read all about him in the post ‘Siamese Finnegan joins the house‘.
Holiday to Pembrokeshire, Wales
Converting our Brompton Bikes to Electric
It was way back in 2017 when we bought Brompton fold-up bikes and they have proved to be a good investment over the years. We have cycled all over the UK with them. If you are interested in what model we bought, have a look at this link ‘Bowen bought a beautiful blue-black Brompton Bike back in July 2017‘. They are truly awesome fold-up bikes, built for comfort and easy riding. However, the world has moved on a lot, some of us are getting older and a lot more hill wiser (e.g. we don’t ride up hills on a Brompton bike unless we really have to.
Since we moved to Surrey, we haven’t cycled as much as we wanted to because there are a lot of beautiful steep hills with stunning views and it has proved frustrating walking up them pushing our Brompton bikes. Therefore a plan was hatched to improve that situation. I made them electric. You can read how I went about it here ‘Brompton Nano Electric Bike‘. Suffice to say, switching to electric power has opened up a whole host of enjoyment. I did loads of cycles in the area after the switch:
- Brompton bike ride around Royal Leamington Spa.
- Brompton bike ride to Reigate Hill.
- Brompton bike ride to Woldingham School.
- Brompton bike ride to Marsden Park and then a problem with the left pedal crank bolt.
- Brompton bike ride to Woldingham station.
- Brompton bike ride to RAF Kenley / ride to Woldingham School.
We joined two local bowling clubs
In August we joined the Bletchingley Bowling Club, which has six lawn rinks. The club is within a 5-minute walk from our home, making it very convenient to visit and play a roll-up after work. Unfortunately, we missed most of the summer season and only got to experience a month of play before the club closed for the autumn and winter seasons. We practised with the club spare bowls and managed to get a coaching session in, which helped a great deal.
For the start of winter, we joined Donyngs Indoor Bowling Club in Redhill. This club also has six carpeted rinks under lights. We had a few coaching sessions and were able to use the club’s bowls to practice, but it wasn’t long before the bowling bug bit hard and each of us bought our own bowls along with all the clothing, shoes and jackets. We also entered into many weekly competitions, drives (fun roll-ups) and various leagues and knockout championships.
It is a fantastic game, lots of skill and practice is needed, but you are guaranteed to meet loads of people from all walks of life. And no it is not a game solely for old people. Yes, there are obviously a lot of retired people who play bowls, but the game is open to all ages.
New electric fat tyre mountain bikes
I touched on earlier in the post that we are surrounded by lovely steep hills, bridleways, country lanes and paths between farms and endless places to explore. As good as the electric Bromptons were on the tarred lanes they were not so great on the gravel or bumpy paths in the forests. This is because the tyres are very thin and the Brompton has no shock absorbers.
I can’t remember how I stumbled upon the Cyrusher electric mountain bike website, but after reading a load of positive reviews, and watching dozens of video reviews on YouTube we decided to buy two XF900 bikes from the company in China.
Rear suspension, full hydraulic brakes, twist throttle, 4.0″ fat tyres, Shimano 21-speed, air front fork suspension, LED front light, dual-sided aluminium crankset, rear spring suspension, 62-mile range, 40mph top speed, 750W power, motorcycle front forks.
The bikes are awesome, very powerful and massive. The riding position is quite high, but the 4-inch thick tyres make the bike feel very stable and it is possible to drive through thick mud, puddles, soft sand and apparently snow and everything else in between (big stones, tree roots, steps, gutters etc). One can still get a good workout if you choose to not use the throttle but steep hills or challenging paths are a lot easier now.
In early summer we had a new shed delivered to us, but due to some uneven foundations, the ****** refused to build the shed. Instead, they dumped it on our back lawn and left. What would have been a one-day installation, turned into a couple of months work because I had to first sort out the foundations, then build the shed?
The were dozen of shed pieces that weighed an absolute ton because we had gone for extra thick, extra secure, weatherproof sides and roof, but we managed to get it standing and then went about insulating it from top to bottom.
I used screws instead of nails on the roof to hold down the Onduline and added gutters, pipes and a water butt. The floor was then covered with a 5mm thick rubber flooring. It is an amazing space and looks good in our garden.
Highlight of 2021 – how about that last lap of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix?
The entire F1 season had been incredible. For the first time in 5 years, Redbull gave Max Verstappen a car that could compete with the Mercedes Benz. There were so many great races with plenty of wheel-to-wheel action between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Of course, with Max’s aggressive style of racing, there were lots of incidents not always his fault, and they seemed to build up with each race.
Throughout the year there were a lot of questionable decisions by the stewards against Verstappen, but that last lap of the last race at Abu Dhabi was by far the most remarkable bit of driving by Max Verstappen. I did a post on my thoughts of the last race at Abu Dhabi.
I have watched hundreds of fan videos of the last lap, but by far the best ones are these two mashups of all the most awesome videos of that lap. It gives me goosebumps every time I watch them, especially watching Christian Horner and Adrian Newey on the pit wall and Toto Wolff squirming with anger in the Mercedes garage. The fans video with Hamilton’s brother is equally funny. The emotion released around the world after Max crossed the line to become the world champion was immense.
If I had to pick a highlight of the year it would be Jo and I watching that last lap. We can’t wait for the 2022 season to start.
Things we are looking forward to in 2022?
- My family from South Africa will be visiting in June. We have a Bryan Adams concert booked at the O2 and we are going to be holidaying in Yorkshire to meet up with our extended family.
- In June, Jo and I will be watching a Foo fighters concert at the London Stadium.
- Jo’s Mom will be visiting from South Africa and we’ll be taking a road trip to Europe in the Tesla. We’ve also hired a campervan and will be staying & watching the Austrian F1 Grand Prixin Spielberg, Austria.
- Cycling, walking and road trips in the Tesla Model 3.
- Braaivleis in the garden with friends.
- Perfecting the biltong process and trying my hand at dried wors.